Dear Fellow Laborers in the Lord’s Vineyard,
The world must surely think we’ve lost our marbles when, in the liturgy for Good Friday, the words ring out: “We adore You, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your resurrection. For behold, by the wood of the cross joy has come into all the world.”
How true! On that day of deepest darkness, humankind finally got its hands on God. We grabbed hold of God in the flesh, nailed Him to a tree and told Him to get out of our world and leave us “the hell” alone. To this day, our every sin still demands the same — to be left alone in hell. Not much cause for joy there.
Ah, but even more true, on that day of deepest darkness, our God was loving the world, loving you and me and all who fail Him again and again. He was loving us by giving His only Son into that horrid death so that our hate-filled, violent, rebellious race might be pardoned and given a life without end in His kingdom.
If you’ve been following along in the Treasury of Daily Prayer or with the Daily Lectionary, you know that we just read again the story of Joseph in Genesis. What light that whole story sheds on the events we’re about to celebrate when we see in Joseph a picture of our Lord! He was hated by his brothers, stripped, betrayed and sold, disowned and forgotten. And why? Precisely so that God could, through Joseph, bring great blessing to those wretched brothers, keeping them alive in famine, providing for their families. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Gen. 50:20).
As with Joseph, so with Jesus. Hence the miracle of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter! It’s true that we meant it for evil. But God Himself was at work through it all, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us as He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. And come resurrection morn, He proclaims to all the world that its sins are forgiven, forgotten, gone! The resurrection cries out: “His sacrifice has been accepted — for you and for all. So rejoice!”
Yes, beloved, through the wood of the cross, joy truly has come into all the world: the joy of sins’ forgiveness, death’s defeat, love’s unconquerable triumph. The cross is our God saying: “You can’t make Me hate you! I love you and forgive you in the blood of My precious Son!”
I know how busy the days ahead are as you work to bring blessings to the people of God. But don’t forget to savor the joy of the cross yourself — to join the people of God in kneeling before the Crucified One who yet lives, who still is the master of working all things (including suffering and hardship) to bring blessing to His own, and who will surely appear again in glory.
To Him, to our Lord of joy, be all glory and honor! Remember me, please, in your prayers during these days, even as I remember you in mine!
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod